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afford of the ethics or morality of the New Testament. Philosophers have often inquired into the nature of virtue or moral goodness, and the conclusions at which they have arrived on this important subject have been various and conflicting. Some have taught that an action is virtuous when it is agreeable to the fitness of things; others when it is conformable to nature; others to reason, and others to truth, while in more recent times the doctrine has been extensively held that an action is virtuous only when it is useful. But the centre point of the morality taught by Jesus is God. His revealed will is the only standard of virtue, and its very nature consists in conformity to the will of God. But entering deeper still into the workings of moral principle, the Redeemer sets forth the important truth that even a good action may be vitiated by an improper motive, that though the action may be one which is expressly commanded by God, still if it is not done with a supreme desire to honour God it cannot be acceptable in His sight. And this ought to lead us,
2. To a strict inquiry as to the motive from which our actions habitually flow. Do we set God constantly before us, and live and act as in His sight, and in full view of the coming judgment? If not, then let us not deceive ourselves; we are strangers to the power of the Spirit's working in the heart. Every act, every impulse of the Spirit in the soul has a re
ference to God. Pray to God then, reader, that you may be brought into such a state, that a desire to promote the divine glory will be the reigning, the allimpelling motive of your conduct. unity, a consistency, a harmony to
This will give a
your whole life,
for "whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, you will do all to the glory of God."
MAT. VI. 5-8.
Jesus having shewn that the righteousness of the Pharisees was defective in so far as almsgiving is concerned, proceeds to the second great duty in which they abounded, the solemn and delightful duty of prayer.
V. 5. "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you,
They have their reward."
Prayer is viewed by the child of God as at once a duty, a privilege, a pleasure, and a benefit. Prayer is the Christian's vital breath. He lives by prayer; and no surer proof can any man give that he has not
yet been made alive unto God, than the habitual omission or the careless performance of this solemn duty. And how does the Lord himself prove to Ananias the reality of the conversion of Saul, but by this indication, Behold he prayeth. The first act of spiritual life is the prayer of faith, "O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul." Prayer is well described as an "offering up of the desires of the heart," and it is not until a man has had spiritual desires implanted within him, that he will really pray. He may have often bowed the knee, he may have honoured God with his lips, but he has hitherto been far from God. And, accordingly, in the verse before us, the Redeemer draws an important distinction between true, acceptable prayer and the prayer of the hypocrite, which, as coming from a wicked heart, is an abomination in the sight of God. "Be not," says He, "as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." An exercise of this kind is destitute of the essential peculiarity of prayer, and the peculiarity, indeed, of all the operations of the Christian life; it is not an exclusive dealing with God. The hypocrite and the formalist love to perform their religious duties in the most public places and in the most open manner, because they have no higher aim than to be seen of men. When
the believer prays he stands afar off, as it were, from men, his eyes are towards heaven. And how is his heart engaged in that interesting moment? He feels his entire, his absolute dependence upon God; his desires are towards Him; his highest delight is in His presence, he is pouring out his heart before Him. The hypocrite desires the presence of man, that he may exhibit before him the apparent fervency of his devotions, but the Christian loves to be alone with his God. And our Lord to express the folly of the hypocrite's conduct uses these emphatic words, "Verily I say unto you, they have their reward." The Lord gives them their hearts' desire, but He gives it in wrath. Take heed, then, what is your chief aim in any religious duty. God must have the whole heart or He will have none of it. “He is a jealous God, and He will not give His glory to any other."
There is no occasion on which the hidden life of the believer manifests itself more strongly than in secret prayer. In public devotion the soul is liable to be somewhat disturbed by the presence of our fellow-men, so that we are to a certain extent prevented from that close collectedness of thought and unrestrained expression of our desires, which the believer feels to be essential to his growth in grace. Hence the urgency Iwith which the Redeemer exhorts each individual believer to cultivate the habit of secret prayer, if he would keep alive and promote the
growth of the principle of grace which has been implanted within him.
V. 6. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
The words here used imply the utmost privacy and retirement, as entire seclusion from the world as our circumstances can possibly admit of. The spirit and practice of the Christian must be directly opposed to that of the hypocrite. He must withdraw from the world, and even from his dearest and most intimate friends, and converse with God alone. This will be the invariable effect of the grace of God in the soul. It will irresistibly lead him to abound in secret prayer, and the more powerful grace is, so much the more necessary will he feel secret prayer to be. He has wants which God alone can supply; he has distresses which God alone can relieve; he has sorrows amid which God alone can comfort him; temptations from which God alone can deliver him. Without prayer his graces will decline, his faith will become feeble, his love will wax cold, his spiritual strength will decay, and in due time Ichabod will be inscribed upon his forehead, the glory is departed. Let me 66 upon every child of God to pray without ceasing" "in every thing, by prayer and supplication,